The Sarasota County Commission is holding a lengthy public hearing today to review all of its decisions in signing a 30-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles to hold its spring-training operations in Sarasota.
County Attorney Steve DeMarsh advised the commission to hold this workshop as a “legal strategy to address a lawsuit filed by two citizens groups that claim the county and city violated Sunshine Laws by conducting spring-training negotiations outside the public eye."
One of those groups, Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government, held a brief press conference outside the county building before the commission hearing.
The group brought a giant inflatable rat with them that it called the “BCC Redo Rat.” BCC is the Board of County Commissioners.
In referring to the hearing, Cathy Antunes, who created Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government, several times said, “We smell a rat.”
“How can the Sarasota County Commission possibly redo in a few hours what required nearly two years to complete?” she asked. “When you have county commissioners on the public record confirming ways of getting around a public referendum, denying citizens the right to vote up or down on millions in new bonds, we smell a rat.”
Last month, DeMarsh told commissioners they should reject a settlement offer from the plaintiffs, which included allowing voters to decide if their tax dollars should go toward building a new baseball stadium.
If that referendum overturned the commission’s previous decision, the county would have to break the contract with the Orioles and would face millions of dollars in penalties.
For that same reason, commissioners are expected to reaffirm every decision they have previously made, because if they didn’t, that would also break the baseball contract.
Said Antunes: “Today’s hearing is an insult to the intelligence of county voters. It is an admission of guilt. We smell a rat.”
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].